Sunday, August 24, 2008

What's for dinner tonight? (times three)

Several of the blogs I regularly (religiously) read include little segments on recipes, etc. Since I am a frustrated chef (I love to cook) I thought it'd be fun to do a post on what we're eating this week. When I cook I have several criteria I try to meet:

* I try to use inexpensive ingredients

* I buy ingredients that can be used for multiple recipes

* I try to make healthy substitutions for recipes we love

* One new goal is to make things that can easily be transformed into meals for Jack, now that he is beginning to eat some "real people food"

So, yesterday I was cooking dinner for Mike to take to his brother's house so they could hang out. I made Cheesy Chicken Casserole, which is a favorite in our house, and simply split it into two separate small casserole dishes so that Mike could take one and I could eat from one/ we'd have leftovers here. Our chicken was frozen, so I decided to give a go at making my own chicken stock since we were in a hurry and I knew I'd need to boil the chicken. Usually I'd cook it in the crock pot. Here are my "recipes" for the casserole and the stock. Note: I use the word recipe loosely, as I rarely do the same thing twice.

Homemade Chicken Stock

You'll need:DSC01236

4 lbs frozen chicken

1 bag frozen mixed veggies (fresh veggies are better, but we were on a schedule)

1/2 an onion, chopped

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper


In a large stock pot, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add frozen chicken and veggies, and cover with water. Cover the stockpot, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for however long you have. The longer it sits, the better! Strain in to a pitcher- mine made about a gallon. Set aside veggies and chicken for later use. Taste stock, adding salt and pepper if needed. If the taste isn't strong enough for you (especially if you're taking the quick route like me) place it back in the stock pot and boil it down to concentrate the flavor. Pour into individual containers and freeze for later use!

Cheesy Chicken Casserole

You'll need:DSC01235

2 lbs cooked chicken from above, cubed and seasoned

1/2 the frozen veggies from above

1 can cream of mushroom, celery or chicken soup

1 can cheese soup

1/2 bag Baked Nacho Cheese Doritos

shredded cheese

In the bottom of a 9x13 dish place a layer of crushed Doritos. Place cubed chicken and cooked veggies on top. Pour cream of mushroom (or whatever) and cheese soups on top, spreading evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Put another layer of crushed Doritos on top and top with a handful of shredded cheese. Bake for 5 more minutes, until cheese is melted. And to quote Rachel Ray... "yum-o!"

So, while I was in a cooking mood, I decided to make a greek pasta dish I've been wanting to make. I had it at Zio's not too long ago, and I loved it! I didn't love paying almost $9 for it, though, so I wanted to give it a go at home. I found a recipe to duplicate it here and I made a few changes.

(Imitation) Zio's Greek Pasta

You'll need:DSC01237

1-2 lbs cooked chicken from above, cubed

1/2 of the remaining mixed veggies from above

1 lb whole wheat penne pasta (whole wheat pasta is awesome for you and tastes the same at "white" pasta- try it!)

6 oz feta cheese

1 tomato, diced

1/4 c olive oil

2 tbsp minced garlic

6 oz kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

3 strips turkey bacon

seasoning mix:

2 parts: oregano, salt, onion powder, garlic powder

1 part: cornstarch, black pepper, parsley, paprika

1/2 part: cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme

A note about the ingredients...

* The veggies have nothing to do with greek pasta, and might seem a little weird. I use them as a filler and it gives the bonus of extra vitamins and good stuff.

* Kalamata olives break my rule of buying cheap- but in my opinion are worth it. They are also kind of a pain in that they usually have pits. For a cheaper, easier alternative you can buy sliced black olives.

* Originally my thought was to use pancetta instead of bacon (again, neither having to do with greek food, but yummy sounding to me). But pancetta is more expensive and turkey bacon is better for you...

Cook pasta and drain. Saute garlic, olives, mixed veggies, and tomatoes in a little the olive oil. Cut bacon in small strips and saute with veggies. Toss in the chicken and season with half of the seasoning mix. Mix chicken/veggie mixture with pasta in a large bowl then add in the feta cheese. Serve hot or cold (like a greek pasta salad).

The remaining veggies and tiny pieces of chicken I saved to refrigerate for Jack. Here he is enjoying it- along with a messy, messy biter biscuit.

DSC01232 DSC01234 DSC01241

All clean!

1 comment:

amosclarkson said...

Wow! You are a cook! I am not. It doesn't help that my hubby works until 9pm each night so it's just me to cook for. I like your criteria, though, so maybe on the weekend I'll try one of your recipes!